Belonging and Friendship: Pinky and Rex

By connecting with the characters from the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex, students learn that it's okay to be different and consider what it means to be a good friend.



Unit 3

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students grapple with common 2nd grade themes through reading the easily relatable series Pinky and Rex. Through connecting with Pinky and Rex, students will learn that it is okay to be different and to be proud of who they are, no matter what others may think. Students will also learn about what it truly means to be a good friend and how friends can support and stick up for one another in a variety of ways. They will also see that it is okay for boys and girls to be friends, even best friends. This unit builds onto multiple units from 1st grade in which students learned what it means to be a good friend and a good person. It is our hope that this unit deepens the understandings developed in previous grades by giving students characters to connect with. These connections are especially important for students who are struggling with some of the same issues and are not sure how to process or talk about them.

This unit is a transition from units that were predominately read aloud to a unit that is almost entirely shared or independent reading. Pinky and Rex are perfect texts for second graders, not only because of the important themes they teach but because of the way in which James Howe develops character and plot over the course of the series. As readers, students will be challenged to notice the descriptive details James Howe includes to show how characters feel in response to different problems and challenges. They will also be challenged to notice how a character’s dialogue shows what they are truly feeling and how the different “said” words James Howe includes deepens that understanding. Students will also begin to analyze why certain words in a text are written in italics and what that shows about how a character is feeling. This deep dive into character will allow students to truly understand the characters and the lessons that they are learning. By reading four books in the series, students will also have the chance to see how characters develop over the course of multiple texts. By the fourth text, students will have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of all three major characters.

Fishtank Plus for ELA

Unlock features to optimize your prep time, plan engaging lessons, and monitor student progress.

Texts and Materials

Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which supports our non-profit mission.

Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

To learn more about how to prepare a unit, internalize a lesson, and understand the different components of a Fishtank ELA lesson, visit our Preparing to Teach Fishtank ELA Teacher Tool.

Essential Questions

  • What does it mean to be best friends?
    • Best friends support and help each other, no matter the situation.
    • Best friends sometimes fight, but they always apologize and forgive each other.
    • Best friends like to have the same things.
    • You can be best friends with someone who is different from you.
  • Why is it important to stand up for yourself and what you believe?
    • It is important to stand up for yourself and what you believe because everyone is different. Being different is okay! When you stand up for yourself, you feel powerful and confident. And more importantly, you feel happy because you get to be yourself.

Foundational Skills

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas

  • Decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels
  • Decode words with common inflectional endings (-ed, -ing, -ly)
  • Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words
  • Decode and recognize contractions and compound words.

For the most part, the Pinky and Rex series books are written with decodable language. However, there are a few areas of complexity within each text. Therefore, targeted phonics and word recognition models should be added to help support students’ ability to decode and understand the core text. After a word analysis strategy is introduced, it should be spiraled and reinforced across all texts and lessons.

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Use proper intonation to show interpretation of the text.
  • Read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage.

The main focus of this unit is on reading with expression, particularly character dialogue, in order to show understanding of the text. In all four core texts the character dialogue reveals a lot about character motivations, feelings, and perspectives. Therefore, a large focus of this unit should be on including opportunities for students to practice rereading dialogue with intonation, expression, and volume to match interpretation of the passage.

Writing Focus Areas

Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Use the conjunctions “because,” “but,” and “so” to write complex sentences.

In this unit, students will use the power of basic conjunctions—“because,” “but,” and “so”—to craft more complex sentences. While the “because,” “but,” and “so” format guides students in writing complex sentences, using these conjunctions also pushes them to think critically and deeply about the content of the unit. We recommend continuing to use our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support to provide individual and small-group feedback throughout the unit.

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm and outline details
  • Differentiate topic sentences from supporting sentences

This is the first opinion-writing unit in 2nd Grade Literature. Students will focus on brainstorming their opinions and developing strong details that support those opinions. Also, they learn to decide what makes a strong topic sentence and how that is different from a supporting sentence.



"stormed away" annoying apologize beamed chattered declared dreading forgive glared grump groaned helplessly insisted mocking mumbled muttered screeching scowled self-conscious sighed smirking snickered sulk urged


-ly self-



To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Pinky and Rex is a chapter book series. Books in a series often build on each other. We learn more about the characters and their feelings, motivations, traits, and relationships in each book. They might change or develop as you read more books in a series.
  • Having a best friend helps you face life’s challenges. Best friends support and help each other, no matter the situation. Sometimes best friends are similar, but they are often different from each other and that is okay. Best friends can get into arguments, but they always apologize and forgive each other.
  • It is important to stand up for yourself and what you believe because everyone is different. Being different is okay! When you stand up for yourself, you feel powerful and confident. And more importantly, you feel happy because you get to be yourself.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

icon/arrow/right/large copy

Unit 2

Cinderella Around the World


Unit 4

Finding Your Power: Freddie Ramos

Dive in with ELA Summer Workshops

Dive in with ELA Summer Workshops

Join us in July and August!